"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Outside of a two-possession stretch when Michigan fans held their breath as Denard Robinson was sidelined with a pinky injury, the Wolverines couldn't have made it any easier to look ahead to next week's game against Michigan State, pounding a hapless Illinois squad, 45-0.
If anything, the final score belied Michigan's dominance. The offense moved the ball at will, rushing for 353 yards on 6.9 per carry and adding 174 through the air on just 15 attempts. The defense held the Illini to a mere 134 yards, including an unheard-of 29 yards on 16 passes; while it didn't help matters when starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase exited in the second quarter with an upper-body injury, his four yards on six attempts weren't lighting the world on fire.
Seemingly every play called by Al Borges worked as intended, starting with a 71-yard touchdown to Jeremy Gallon on a bubble screen* to open the scoring; Gallon weaved through the Illini defense, helped by stellar downfield blocking, most notably by tight end Mike Kwiatkowski. The next drive stalled near the goal line for a field goal after Denard exited the game with a banged-up pinky; it was the only moment when Michigan fans felt even a hint of concern.
The Wolverines continued to establish their identity as a run-first, run-second outfit on Denard's first possession back in the lineup, gaining all 68 of their yards on the ground en route to a six-yard scramble for Michigan's dreaded wonder. When Robinson opened the second half with a physics-defying 49-yard scamper to paydirt, the rout was on in earnest. Illinois's next possession ended after one play, a Kenny Demens interception of Reilly O'Toole. Three plays later, Devin Funchess hauled in a Robinson lob in the back of the end zone, bringing the score to 31-0 before many fans had returned with their halftime hot chocolates.
On the other side of the ball, Jake Ryan flashed his All-American potential again and again, amassing 11 tackles (7 solo), four TFLs, 1.5 sacks, and a devastating forced fumble as he flushed O'Toole out of the pocket, doubled back, and blindsided him to jar the ball loose. Denard Robinson may have finished with four touchdowns, 159 yards passing, and 128 yards rushing, but Ryan made a legitimate claim for best Wolverine on the field.
Ryan wasn't the only standout, as seven Wolverines tallied tackles for loss, neither Illini quarterback could find an open receiver, and Greg Mattison's blitzes hit home time and again. Two years ago, Michigan faced this same Illinois squad—with the same starting quarterback, even—and gave up 561 yards and 65 points. Against this defense, the Illini would need almost a full 17 quarters to rack up that same yardage; no matter how long they went, they'd obviously never reach that point total.
Safe to say, times have changed for both programs.
Michigan has found their perfect match at head coach and defensive coordinator. The offense under Al Borges has had their growing pains, but it's clear that they've found a suitable balance since the bye week to maximize Denard's remaining time as a Wolverine.
After the game, the marching band spelled out "Marry Me, Danielle?" as a band member dropped to a knee at midfield. Like everything the Wolverines dialed up on Saturday, the play was a success. On a cold, grey, rainy day in Ann Arbor, only the weather could dampen the spirits of those in Maize and Blue.
*On second look, it wasn't exactly a bubble screen, as Gallon started downfield before stopping and coming back to the line; a very well drawn-up play regardless.
Jake Ryan has more than potential. He's the real deal. The stats are there but don't tell the full story. I bet he breaks +10 in the UFR again. Maybe 15?
He's always around the football, making plays. All-American if he keeps improving every week.
thankful that Denard came back from the apparent pinky boo-boo to exert his will with his feet and his arm. Cannot wait to see how our defensive ranking continues to improve. Tonight is time to celebrate. Tommorrow the "Beat Staate" screams, chants, tweets and blog posts will start to grow and multiply.
What was the story there? I watched the game, but I can't recall much talk about the DB play.
Plus, my eye is not the world's best at seeing the details of defensive play.
Was this a case where Michigan's D-line and LB corp took most of the pressure off the DBs? Or the DBs covering Illinois WRs so well there was just nothing open? Combination of both?
The top 8 tacklers were LBs and DLs, so I'd say it's safe to say the LB and DL ruled the day. The DBs probably covered pretty well, but Illinois didn't have much chance to throw. On the rare opportunity they could have completed passes, the receivers dropped the ball.
It's amazing that it reached the point on the 2-3 plays to gain over 5 yards that I was surprised.
Awesome to see some push up the middle.
I'm a little confused as to why everybody keeps referring to the Gallon TD as a bubble screen, perhaps its because the announcer referred to it as so.
But to me, that was a tunnel screen and borges ran that all the time last year. Gallon came back to the qb and had ol downfield blocking for him, doesn't a bubble screen usually entail a wr going away from the qb with the wrs blocking for him?
Not that it matters, it was an awesome play but I am confused by the terminology.
I was beginning to think nobody else noticed. I came on here purely to comment that it wasn't a bubble at all. Don't worry, it isn't just you who didn't think it was a bubble, all of humanity should accordingly agree with you.
It's puzzling to me how it confused so often. I remember last year when Michigan fans were pondering the lack of bubbles an analyst on a pay site offered that they don't run it because the OL weren't very good at releasing and blocking downfield...to which I replied "your OL doesn't go anywhere, it blocks an inside zone to the other direction."
You came on here purely to comment about the naming of play?
I wonder what that says about you?
Who else was downfield blocking at 29 seconds?
[Edit: Jake Ryan is a freak at 3:25]
Lewan at first, and then Schofield turns up around 35 seconds.
i came on here purely to down vote you.
I'm pretty sure it's a tunnel screen because the tackle did the outside blocking.
So many thoughts.
1. Speaking as someone who was at the Illinois game 2 years ago, to witness that disgusting defense in the triple overtime win, this was a fun watch. I can't tell you how nice it is to breathe easy in the 3rd quarter and watch the backups get plenty of time to play.
2. Denard always bangs up something against Illinois. Forcier had to finish for him 2 years ago and Gardner had to come in for him last year. Hope the pinky heals. He was smiling in the 4th quarter so I hope that's a good sign.
3. With rain coming down that hard, you don't expect any team to put up 45 points. I thought this would be a very low scoring game. I loved how the team handled the horrible weather conditions. No interceptions, no muffed punts, no fumbles (other than the Bellomy hand off late in the game.)
4. Denard did very little throwing but he only had one bad pass and no interceptions. Thank GOD for that. I do get very worried when he takes off running and reaches out as he's falling to the ground. He's in great pain every time that happens.
5. Very pleased with the crowd noise on TV, despite the weather and fans leaving early in the second half.
6. I was really, really hoping Fitz would get going today but it's still a struggle. As soon as he's given the ball, the holes close up and he can't do anything.
7. Very happy with the win overall. Now let's go out and beat Sparty next week for win #900. MSU's defense is still tough and their players will downright injure you with unsportsman like plays so the team needs to be ready for a dog fight.
I'll add a few more:
1) I liked what little I saw of Russell Belomy's throwing. His passes were, sadly, dropped ... but they were on-target. The kid just needs more reps.
2) The more I see of Devin Funchess, the more I think he's got more upside than we realize. The future is very bright with that kid.
3) It was great to see Roundtree climb up and get that one pass.
4) The defense, at least against Illinois, "feels" like it's coming together really nicely. The chemistry is solidifying.
5) I really, really thought Dennis Norfleet was going to get his return-for-TD on that one run.
From the first highlight tape I've watched of him, I've thought of Shannon Sharpe. He seems like an exact clone.
If he doesn't like to block, he'll be a bench NFL WR. If he bulks up and becomes a passable blocker, he'll be an all-pro TE in the NFL.
I could see him turning into a Vernon Davis or Aaron hernandez type play if he bulks up 20ish pounds
With his frame, I don't see 20 lbs being too difficult. If he can keep the speed and leaping ability with 20 extra lbs, he could seriously be one of the best TE's in the nation. His ball skills are already phenomenal.
Minnesota firing Glen Mason.
much of Illinois staff looks very young for a Big Ten program. If I had a wild guess Illinois has probably had trouble getting across what they're looking for from them as players. They also have some really good upper classmen headed the NFL that have probably "checked out" so to speak.
They're too big a strong to be that bad.
This game would have turned out very differently if the nanny state hadn't stolen Tim Beckman's Skoal tin.
BOOM RJ REYNOLDS'D
In the seventh game, Hoke unleashed a horrible vengeance on the Spartans of East Lansing. And in the 4th of four quarters, the Spartans prayed for mercy, but it would not be found.
Good win today.Nice to see Justice Hayes get some touches.Cant wait till next saturday.
Plain ol stupid comment...
Talked to my boomer parents and I'm told this is what big 2 little 8 looked like l. Refreshing after the past few years.
this is what "That 70's Game" looked like.
way to act like we just beat Alabama, everyone. its illinoise. this isn't "bliss," this is what should be par for the course.
This comment is so bad in so many ways.
Is pretty dumb.
I am concerned that Denard will get injured next week by MSU's 60 minutes of necessary roughness or whatever the F they call it. I think I saw they took 6 personal fouls in one half against IU last week. I'm perhaps irrationally concerned about a lot of dirty play coming
won't it be nice to see the reversion? Pouty, dirty little brother will be left to trying to kick big brother in the shin.
He won't. They are going to get broken and quit before the end of the first half.
the dirty play is coming to Ann Arbor, they will take their cheap shots and we will capitalize on that crap, if they want to give Denard 15 yards for free then they are stupid and Borges will have something for them.
We will play with the same edge and grittyness but we will do it legally.
We held them to -2 total yards in the second half! I hadn't noticed that until I took a peak at the drive charts
... their coaches held their best player out of a game because they thought he might have a concussion, despite the game being "close" at that point. Kudos to them for putting that first.
Indeed, they didn't pull what Sparty did to Tom Gholston.
Impressive win. I live in Ohio, and can't stand buckeye chatter. This year, whenever someone brags I just remind them that Michigan has not played a few sisters of the poor teams. If they did, in my opinion, they would have been able to work out the kinks early on and do much better against ND. Still hoping they win out. I think they can and another 11-2 season would be sweet.
Also, was anyone else thinking about the SNL jeopardy sketch whenever the Illini running back got the ball?
(See 1:09 in)
Don't forget Indy.
is a monster, I hope he just bashes Bell and Maxwell all day. I want them to have night terrors for the rest of the season with the number 47 popping up in their heads.